Parenting: Age Gaps are nothing to worry about

By: Adam Shulita/ The Observer Uganda

What happens when parents find themselves in a situation where there is a late entrant to the family, just about when they thought they were done with having children?

Well, a lot of them would certainly begin to agonize, wondering how they would be able to fit this little baby in a family of almost grown-up children. This is not to mention the hassle that mum and dad will have to go through, relearning the babysitting skills that they had put behind them long time ago.

Then there is the inevitable shifting of attention from the older children to the newborn, and the accompanying jealousies and psychological impacts.

But you know what, most of the time such fears are really unfounded. Yes, there could be a little bit of the above, however, by and large, the new baby is usually well-received by everyone in the family. Even the previous last-born, however old they are, though they harbor some initial resentment, soon warm up to this little new sibling.

When Saqeeb, our five-year-old son, was born, he stole the last-born child position from our daughter, Shameela, who was 12 years his senior. She did exhibit streaks of jealousy when she discovered someone else was going to take over her ‘last-born’ status.

“The truth is, there is no right age gap for your family – whatever age gap you end up with, you will find ways of making it work,” reads a line in Age Gaps Between Children: 10 Reasons Why Big Gaps Rock, an article on

The author argues that sometimes it is actually easier when there are such large gaps because then you don’t have to contend with sibling squabbles such as fighting for a plaything or struggles of seeking for attention.

An older child is less-likely to feel left out after the arrival of a new sibling. They will be better placed to understand the needs of the new baby, and to react with compassion and empathy.

An older child will be able to help out with the new baby, and this will be a great opportunity for them to build a strong bond with each other. From running to the room to grab a clean diaper, to soothing the baby during long car journeys, your older child will have an active role to play in caring for your new child.

At the end of the day, the older child may see themselves as a mentor for the younger sibling, rather than as a competitor.

What eventually did diffuse the initial tension exhibited by Shameela after Saqeeb’s arrival was the discovery that the new arrival was a boy. Whereas he was inevitably going to grab some of the attention she believed was exclusively hers, she knew she could still enjoy her girl talk with mum, and wouldn’t have to fight with the little guy for her treasured playthings.

Today, Shameela is 17, and she and Saqeeb are very tight. He even abandons his bed and goes to Shameela’s room to sleep in her bed whenever she is home for school holidays. Now that she is waiting for her O-level exam results, it has even become a standard occurrence. Shameela loves his kid brother so much that she’s almost spoiling him.

She will sometimes climb down the age ladder and have trivial bickering with him, just so that she can fit in. As for Saqeeb, he just cannot do without his favorite mentor.